The Best Start?

Professional Adviser Jean Byrne explains how the CSP is scoping potential models of preceptorship for physiotherapy

The Best Start?

From the moment of registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), chartered physiotherapists are deemed to be accountable, autonomous practitioners, who are expected to uphold professional standards set by the HCPC and their professional body.

However, I’m sure we all remember the feeling of putting our uniform on for the first time as a newly qualified physiotherapist and the level of anxiety that brought. It was a similar feeling to when I brought my first-born home from hospital and set the car seat on the floor and thought: ‘OK, now what?’

The level of anxiety of course was variable, depending on the hospital or trust and depending on the level of support provided to newly qualified staff. I do often think that it would have been reassuring to have had a dedicated person who was responsible for overseeing my initial period in post. 

We already know that the benefits of a preceptorship programmes are many – better patient care, improved morale and wellbeing and, for the organisations, improved retention, and a more skilled and confident workforce. And with the pandemic into its second year, how much more important will it be for these new graduates to have support to develop in their confidence? The early stages of new graduates’ careers set the tone for the future, and setting newly qualified Band 5 staff on what should be a lifelong journey can only be a positive thing.

The CSP is therefore embarking on a journey to scope out possible models of preceptorship for physiotherapy. The work will align with Health Education England (HEE) plans to produce a preceptorship and early careers framework for all AHPs.

However, CSP activity will be broader, considering models that could work across all four countries. 

What could a preceptorship programme look like?

Other professions have used preceptorship for many years – nursing, social work and teaching for example. Newly qualified staff are paired with a preceptor who is responsible for overseeing their transition from new graduates to competent, confident practitioners. Some programmes are up to three years, focusing on different elements each year; other models last one or two years. 

We will need to consider length of the programme, but to do that our starting point will be looking at what we want to achieve and then consider how best it could be delivered.

Preceptorship as defined by the Department of Health (2010) is ‘a period of structured transition for the newly registered practitioner during which he or she will be supported by a preceptor to develop their confidence as an autonomous professional, refine skills, values and behaviours to continue on their journey of lifelong learning’.

Preceptorship differs from mentorship in that a mentor is seen as an advisor, friend or counsellor but would not be responsible for evaluating the skills of the mentees.

Scoping what’s possible

Some trusts already have AHP Preceptorship Programmes such as the Oxleas AHP Preceptorship Programme. Preceptors support preceptees on a twelve month programme and the work completed in the preceptorship programme forms the basis of a portfolio which can be used to meet the requirements of audit and registration with the HCPC.

We also know that there are certainly many support schemes in place for newly qualified staff but they may not have the label of ‘preceptorship’. There may be in-service training programmes specific to the area Band 5 staff are working in and other programmes of development in place for them.

What would we like you to do?

We are looking for your input to help us

  1. Shape our input into the development of the AHP Framework being developed
  2. Scope out what preceptorship might look like for physiotherapy across all four countries.

We are sure that there trusts and departments out there who are already on this journey. The CSP would like to hear from members who are part of these teams who already have models in operation or are looking to develop programmes for new graduates. We are keen to build on best practice.

Please contact me at if you have any information you would like to share. to continue on their journey of lifelong learning’.

Preceptorship differs from mentorship in that a mentor is seen as an advisor, friend or counsellor but would not be responsible for evaluating the skills of the mentees.

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